Friday, June 26, 2009

My Summer Vacation

If you are in the NYC area this weekend there are a few cheesy things you MUST do. The Fancy Food show is going on! In addition to a bunch of stuff we don't care about because it's not cheese, there are tons of cheesemakers too. I think I'd heard a number like 65 or so. And it's free. And there's cheese. Go so I can eat vicariously through you.

The second thing you have to do is go to the cheese eating contest. Stinky Brooklyn is hosting a cheese eating contest at Smith & Vine. I don't know if it's a stinky cheese eating contest I really hope it is but it's a cheese eating contest and you have to go. Why am I not going to either of these events? Why am I going to be here in Chicago instead of at a cheese eating contest? I'm taking too much time off this summer, and I had to be selective for which events were most important to me.

I know that I'm supposed to talk about my summer "vacation" at the end of the summer, but I'm a rebel and am breaking the rules.

On Tuesday I went to a seminar on Parmigiano-Reggiano held at Kendall College here in Chicago. Sponsored by Zuercher. The guest speakers were Daphne Zepos, cheese Goddess extraordinaire and owner of Essex St. Cheese in NYC and Giorgio Cravero 5th generation selector, affineur, and all around expert in the field. Thursday Daphne and Giorgio did a demo at the store, it was crazy busy and awesome. I'm working on a post. Next month some folks from Neal's Yard Dairy are coming out to do something similar.

Then comes August, or as I like to call it, I'm traveling a lot this month and putting the poor kitty in a kennel and eating so much cheese and going to be so broke after this month kicks my wallets' butt. It's not as succinct as just saying August, but it conveys so much more.

First off we have the ACS Conference Facebook link here going on from August 5-8 with the festival of cheese on August 9th. Then on August 22nd I'm doing the cheese trail in Vermont followed by the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival on August 23rd. You can also find more info here. I'm still waiting to see if I'm going to get the time off for the Cheese Tour in Washington County, NY. This summer I am going to be eating a ridiculous amount of cheese. Yipee!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cheesewench rant

Guess what time it is? It's time to get on my soapbox. Where I work we have a saying "We build up, we don't tear down." I'm going to try to adhere to that. I am only human, so I might fail. A few weeks ago a customer came in and wanted to know why we charge more for Mt. Tam than Whole Foods. We charge the same price as Cowgirl Creamery. As you know, Whole Foods is a ginormous grocery store. In my opinion they're on the same level as Target or Borders. These stores are able to sell products at a lower price for a few reasons.

Quantity. Whole Foods, Costco and other large supermarkets have deeper pockets than the independently owned shop I work for. If you buy more product you usually get a better deal, even in the cheese world. Big stores also have loss leaders. They can afford to take a loss on one specific product because they have so many other products to make that loss up on. It's why you'll see such price variation. The Whole Foods near me has thousands upon thousands of products. Organic avocados from Mexico, a sushi bar, a gelato stand, diapers, household cleaners, frozen foods, a prepared foods bar, and yes a cheese stand.

A loss leader works because the woman who came in essentially accusing us of price gouging grrrr is going to shop at Whole Foods. She'll go in to get her cheese, and while she's there she'll hit the meat counter, the produce area, maybe the bulk grains. Bottom line, she'll buy more than just one cheese, but the low price on the cheese is what gets her, and other customers into the store.

A shop like that one I work for can't afford to do that. We have several hundred products. If we take a loss on a product, we can't readily make that money up in another sector. I appreciate what big box stores do. I do shop at Whole Foods for certain items, and I go to Border's and Target periodically as well. I try to do more shopping at independent stores it can be difficult, but it's worth the price.

Warning! Here comes the snarky part.

A few months ago I was looking for Bonne Bouche from VT Butter & Cheese Company. This is one of my all time favorite cheeses, and I can't get it out here. I went to one of the larger stores specifically looking for it. What follows is my rendition of the conversation with the woman working the cheese counter.

Counter Person: "Is there anything I can help you with?"
Me: "I'm looking for cheese from VT Butter & Cheese Company"
C.P.: "What are you looking for?"
Me: "It's a cheese called Bonne Bouche."
C.P.: "All the cheeses they make are in the dairy section. They make Mascarpone, Creme Fraiche and Fromage Blanc."
Me: "Yeah, I saw those. I'm looking for Bonne Bouche. It's about this big, round, covered in ash."
C.P.: "I've never heard of it, the only things they make are the things in the dairy case, and butter."
Me: "Um...I've had the Bonne Bouche before. I've put it in my mouth. It exists."
C.P.: "You must be thinking of some other company."
Me: "No I'm not. I've had the cheese. I know who makes it. They make several different cheeses in addition to the butter, Mascarpone, Creme Fraiche, Quark and Fromage Blanc. Why are you being an argumentative stupid head?"
C.P.: "I don't know what cheese you're talking about so instead of admitting it I'm going to adamantly insist that it doesn't exist and try to make you feel stupid. I have no idea that you really do know what you're talking about and that this encounter is going to stay with you for months, eventually inspiring a blog post. I also have no joy in my heart."

I'm paraphrasing a bit, and in that last exchange, some of that was my interpretation, but I was really upset by this. We have people come into the shop and ask about specific cheese all the time. I don't know all of the cheeses in the world. What we do at work is we ask someone else, pick up one of the books we have in the store, or google it. If I know we don't carry it, I'll make a suggestion for something similar. We sometimes even special order cheeses for customers. I have never told anyone that a cheese doesn't exist, only that I don't know it but will try to look it up. I wish I had been treated better at this store, but really I wish the clerk had more knowledge, and passion for her job. Usually a smaller independent shop has that knowledge, that passion.

You all know that I hate to end on a negative, so instead I'll come up with something fun. The other day a girlfriend and I were trying to think of funny images. The one we stuck with was Dachshund puppies participating in an Olympic sport. Specifically the luge. Is there anything cuter than silly looking long weenie puppies doing the luge? I think not.

Cowgirl Creamery

One of my favorite creameries is Cowgirl Creamery out in California. They've been making cheeses from organic milk since 1997 and two of my favorites are Red Hawk, and St. Pat.

Red Hawk. I adore this cheese. It's the only triple creme and washed rind cheese that I know of. This cheese makes my mouth very happy. As you know, I have a special place in my heart, tummy, and fridge for washed rind cheeses. What you might not know is, I rarely enjoy a triple creme cheese. They more likely than not taste like salted butter, and very little else. In my opinion, the only way to really enjoy a triple creme is to have a glass of bubbly with it, otherwise it feel like licking a stick of butter.

That being said, let me contradict myself immediately. Red Hawk is a glorious cheese. The salt is nicely balanced, not overpowering at all. The cheese is soft but not gooey. If you were to lightly squeeze the cheese it would spring back. When you open the cheese you get a slightly dried smell. Kind of like hay sitting in the sun. While I would consider this to be a mild washed rind cheese, it has a big beefy, slightly toasted peanutty flavor.

For reasons unknown to me, the cheese is playing hide and seek.

Red Hawk is yummy. Coincidentally the name of my camera as well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cheese for Breakfast

Today is my day off from work. My plan was to make a hearty breakfast. Eggs, chicken sausage, maybe even biscuits. When I woke up at 7am it was almost 80 degrees.* I haven't put my a/c window unit in yet, and I thought that cooking was just going to be a bad idea.

With a growling tummy and a meowing kitty at my heels I opened the fridge looking for something yummy. I pulled out some lemon iced tea and kept rummaging. Oh yum! I have a container of Driftless from Hidden Springs Creamery. I had other plans for this cheese, but plans change. It's time for breakfast.

This is a fresh sheep's milk cheese from Wisconsin. Specifically the "Driftless" area of the state. This part of Wisconsin still has some rolling hills instead of being completely flat. The reason? The glaciers that came through missed a spot. Read more about that here.

The make different flavors of Driftless cheese. Today's flavor is the lavender and honey. They also make this cheese is plain, basil, cinnamon & cranberry and pumpkin during the fall. I do something different with each flavor. The basil one I use as a topping on bread with pasta. Pumpkin makes Thanksgiving dessert soooooo good. The cinnamon & cranberry is ridiculously good as a stuffed french toast filler as is the lavender and honey. No syrup needed when using these lovelies.

The plain is in my opinion the most overlooked. I think it's a wonderful cheese. It shows off their sheep's milk beautifully. It's rich and fatty, slightly musty, a bit sheepy and a little sweet all on it's own. A wonderful addition to any cheese board.

Sheep milk has a higher percentage of vitamins and minerals than cow or goat's milk. It also has a higher fat content. This i why when you taste a sheep milk cheese, no matter what style, it aways tastes a bit rounder in the mouth. Texturally this cheese is a bit like if ricotta and cream cheese got together and had a love-child. It looks grainy, but has a very smooth spreadable consistency. Great on a piece of still warm sourdough I toasted it, not fresh baked for breakfast with a glass of ice tea. Nourishing, refreshing and cooling.

I love starting my day with cheese.

Lil' tub of Driftless


*Can anyone explain to me why on my day off I can't sleep in? Sleeping in used to mean 11am. Now it means 7am. NOT FAIR!

Friday, June 19, 2009


A while back our cheese buyer went on a two week excursion to Italy. He had the chance to meet all of these great producers in the hopes of maybe getting some unique products into our shop. One of the things he brought back was Ricotta Forte. Most of the people at work didn't care for it, but I loved it! I took the jar home and tried to figure out something to do with it. Lasagna was the answer.

What is Ricotta Forte? To answer that you really need to know what Ricotta is. When cheese is made it is separated into curd and whey. The curds are made into yummy cheesy goodness, but the whey is still valuable. Some farmers add whey to feed for pigs which produces ridiculously tasty ham. If you take that whey and re-heat it, you get another set of curds. A bit more delicate than the first batch, this is Ricotta. Ricotta is a lovely fresh cheese that should be eaten straight away. If you have too much Ricotta, you salt it, mold it and dry it out a bit. Now you have Ricotta Salata.

Ricotta Forte is essentially spoiled Ricotta. Yes, that does sound kind of gross. It's not. If you think about it, cheese is the result of milk gone bad under controlled circumstances. After a few months you have a thick, crumbly, lightly caramel colored cheese that burns. Oh yes, it burns us precious! This cheese is acidic, tangy, pungent, salty, and to be honest, it hurts to eat it. My mouth tingled, my nose burned a bit. It was so good.

I have yet to find it here in Chicago and might have to mail order it since it's really specific to Puglia region of Italy (the heel of the boot). I added a little bit to my ricotta filling for lasaga and it was delicious!

The jar of Ricotta Forte.

In the background is the Ricotta mixture. In the foreground is a spoonful of the beast.

The Mozzarella I added came from Crave Brothers in Wisconsin. They do farmstead cheeses, and work at being a sustainable dairy. Four brothers. Really good cheese.

Little mozzarella balls from Crave Brothers got sliced and tossed into the ricotta mixture. To be honest, some of the slices got tossed in my mouth. Their Mozzarella is light, milky, creamy and has just the right amount of salt. A far cry from the hard flavorless cheese you normally find in the supermarket.

I guess I have to give you a recipe. Here's what I did:

Meat Sauce:

1 lb. spicy turkey sausage
1 jar Pasta sauce of your choice (Newman's with roasted garlic is quite nice)
2 jars of water (use your pasta sauce jar)

Cheese Filling:

1 duck egg (or 2 lg. chicken eggs)
1 15oz. container of Ricotta
1/4 c. Ricotta Forte
1/4 c. grated Podda
5 ea. mini mozzarella balls sliced thin

Meat filling assembly:
  • Take the sausage out of the casing and brown it
  • Add your pasta sauce
  • Fill the pasta jar with water shake it (to remove all sauce) and add it to the pot. Repeat.
  • simmer (not boil) until the sauce is slightly thinner than what originally came out of the jar (45 min or so)
Cheese filling assembly:
  • take one duck egg and add the regular ricotta to it
  • using a spatula, mix it together until the egg is completely incorporated
  • add the ricotta forte to the mix
  • stir until smooth
  • add Podda
  • add Mozzarella
Putting it together:
  • put a layer of sauce down (it keeps things from burning)
  • then add a noodle layer
  • cover noodles with meat sauce
  • add cheese layer
  • layer until you've got about 1/2" of space left at the top
  • top layer should be cheesy goodness
I baked this for about 30 minutes-covered-in a 350 oven. If you want to brown it, take the dish and put it under your broiler for a few minutes. I know that there's no salt in this recipe. Unless you have a salt deficiency, it's really not needed. The Ricotta Forte has quite enough salt to it, as does the sausage. If you want to make this vegetarian, you may need some salt. Taste it and see what you think.

I'm going to be honest. I don't have a picture of the lasagna. Why? Well, I hadn't planned on this post really. I was going to do a little blurb about the new cheese, and that was going to be that. Anyway, you've seen lasagna so you know what it should look like. I offered some to my friend and he said that "It smelled like feet." Yeah, it does a little bit. But it is soooooooo good. I have a little bit of the Forte left. I think I'm going to stuff some shells.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Farmer's Market Finds

Going to the Green City Market here in Chicago is one of my favorite ways to spend a morning. I have my regular routine. First I go to the lamb and goat man. Perhaps get some duck eggs. I get some cheese, taste some fruit, buy some veggies, and get a treat. Usually my treat comes from the Seedling stand and is a cider and fruit smoothie. I try not to buy cheese. I usually fail.

The last time I went to the market I found three delicious cheeses. The first is Saxony from Saxon Creamery in Wisconsin. It's a raw washed rind cow milk cheese and has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor profile. Similar to a savory almond milk. Please take a minute and read the story behind this company. They love their animals, and the land and it shows in the end result. This was my first time having anything from Saxon Creamery but I know that I'll be back for more.

Up next is Roxanne. I'll give you some time to go to your itunes and search for the famous Police song. Okay, shall I continue?

Roxanne comes from one of my favorite cheesemakers, Prairie Fruits Farm here in Illinois. while I am familiar with most of Leslie's cheeses, I'd never had this one before. This is done in the style of a Brebis from the Basque region of France.

Leslie is a farmsteading goat cheese maker but for this cheese she uses sheep's milk from an Amish dairy further south. This cheese is very rich without being heavy. Because it's sheep milk, it has a rounder mouth feel. Since the milk comes from pastured animals, it has some of that green grassy, sweet clover quality to it. Not too gamy, and just a slight nuttiness to it. The rind was really interesting. It had a sort of wet stone quality to it. Mineraly.

Last up is Krotovina. One of my favorite cheeses. This cheese has goat's milk and sheeps milk separated by a line of vegetable ash. Soft bloomy rind cheese that ripens from the outside in. A slightly sweet fatty, lactic, goaty, acidic, spreadable pyramid of good.

The orange-brown rind cheese on the left is Saxony, in the middle, Roxanne and on the right, Krotovina.

This is the whole wheel of Roxanne. Isn't she pretty? Right behind her is a little pyramid of Krotovina.

So what is vegetable ash? It's just what it sounds like. Vegetables are dried, and turned into ash which a cheesemaker then buys and incorporates into their cheese. The real question is why? Why add ash to a cheese? There are a couple of reasons. I think that the primary one is because it looks awesome. Here in America Humbolt Fog is probably the most famous of the ash cheeses.

For me though, the first cheese I ever saw with the ash line was Morbier from France. Traditionally, the cow's were milked and the ash was used as a protectant for keeping the curds safe from unsavory elements, and to keep them from drying out. In the morning the cows were milked again, and the mornings curds were put on top of the ash. Nowadays most Morbier is made from one milking, but the ash line is still present.

I have been told that ash is an alkaline substance that neutralizes acidity. Acid is one of the most important factors in making a cheese. Too acidic and your cheese might not ripen. Adding vegetable ash can help balance a cheese.

One of my favorite cheeses in this category is Wabash Cannonball from Capriole in Indiana.
This is a little cheese with a lot of flavor. I really like the exterior. Looks a bit like brains. This is a good cheese for distracting zombies if you're under attack.

Beautifully white and creamy. A good balance between acid, salt and cream. Good for eating alone or one of my favorite things to do with this cheese is to toast up some hearty bread (sourdough works really well) add a bit of the Cannonball, and a small drizzle of honey. Delicious!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Vermont Cheese and Festival

Today is all about Vermont, my adopted home. I moved to Vermont one summer for a job at a ski lodge. 9 years later I left the Green Mountain State. There is something magical about that state. Something that calls to my very soul. Yes I did leave, but I am going to go back one day.

I think that in a blind taste test I would be able to tell a Vermont cheese from any other cheese in the union. Vermont has got some great terroir. What is terroir? It's hard to explain. The short version is that it's the soil, sun, shade, water and minerals that go into making the land. It's the reason why some wines have a mineral or chalky quality to them, and some do not. It is the primary reason I love Vermont cheese.

Vermont cheeses always taste like Vermont. Even the mass marketed Cheddar has a Vermontatude to it. Today's cheese is no different. Today's lunch was a little round of Hartwell an organic cow milk cheese from Ploughgate Creamery in Craftsbury Common, VT. If I was to compare it to anything, I'd say it has a profile similar to that of a Brie. Big mushroom flavors. Wild mushrooms. It has some mushroom aromas as well and a bit of that yummy slightly bitter, almost bordering on ammonia mold smell that you get with a bloomy rind cheese.

If I'm going to be honest, I'll tell you that I find the rind to be just a bit too thick and cut a tiny bit off of the bottom as I ate it.*, and then there's the green veggie. My friend C says that VT cheeses always taste a bit like vegetables to him, and I agree. This cheese in particular has a slight skunkiness like cabbage, and a hint of onion like ramps right after you take a knife to them. So good. I didn't know what to pair with this. I wanted to turn it into a sandwich, or maybe a small chunk on the side of a rockit salad. Or quiche. I just don't know. Too many options. Eventually I just cut up a wheel, and ate it with a few co-workers.

One of the unfortunate parts of living in Chicago is we don't get a lot of VT cheese. A lot of the artisan cheesemakers won't ship their product that far, or they only do an express overnight which makes that $9 piece of cheese that I'm craving turn into $71. I'm not kidding I checked one of the makers of a favorite cheese of mine. The other deterrent is, I live in the Midwest. In a state that borders Wisconsin. In addition, I try to eat locally. I really do. I know where my meats come from, my veggies, eggs and dairy. But cheese. My lovely cheese. I can't just stay local when it comes to cheese.

Yummy funky little cheese.

Isn't she pretty?

There are two things that make me happy thinking about VT cheese. The first one is Saxelby Cheesemongers. When I go to NY (which is much more often than getting back north) if I go to that shop I know they're going to have some great VT cheeses. The other is the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival that's going on this August 23.

Fifty Vermont cheesemakers will be on hand. In addition there are cooking demonstrations, and tasting seminars. There is a cheesemaking 101 seminar, Cheddar and beer pairings, and oodles of fun!

The chesemaker's festival is awesome, but in order to get an even better experience, participate in Vermont Artisan Food Open Studio Day the day before on August 22. Go up and down the state tasting artisan products like the lovely pastries at La Brioche in Montpelier** or visit the Magic Hat brewery. There's also a cheese trail. Thirty farmstead creameries are open to the public for demos and visits.

I have put in my time off request at work and sincerely hope I can get that weekend off. It's going to be tricky since the ACS conference is earlier in the month, but I'm going to do whatever I can to make it happen.

In other Vermont news it's almost the end of the Winnimere season. If you haven't had an opportunity to try this cheese, do so now or suffer a Winnie sized emptiness in your tummy until next January.

*Yes, I did take off the bottom rind from the pieces I was eating. This does not give you the excuse to not eat the rind. As I have told you, try the cheese with and without the rind and see what you prefer. I thought that 2/3 of the rind was the right amount of rind to paste ratio for my palate.

**I went to culinary school at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, VT. La Brioche is the school bakery. My breads and pastries class started at 2am. My cakes, tarts, and pies were at 6am. The bars close at 2am in VT. It was very odd going to class in a starched, pressed uniform as people were stumbling home from the bars. Very odd indeed.

On the first day of breads class my instructor said that if we were tired he would help us wake up. He then took a volunteer never trust a bread man, they're crazy brought him over to the dough starter and punched it down. The gasses trapped in the dough poofed out, smacked my mod-mate in the face and knocked him on his bum. There is a special place in my heart for this building, and my instructors. The food is good, the coffee is too and there's a Ben & Jerry's right next door for all of your emergency ice cream needs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Good afternoon all. Just a little update.

Good news: Huzzah! The fever has broken! Now I'm sweating like crazy and can't get enough fluids. Thankfully I have lemonade, and strawberries.

I got your package Lo, and it looks like UPS played hacky sac with it. Completely shattered. Jalapeno honey sounds and smells so good. I will have to come up with something as an homage.

Junglefrog, I fear that your lovely gift is being held hostage in some archaic room in customs never to be seen or tasted by me. There is always this danger when shipping internationally. Your wedding photos look great. Good luck during this crazy time of year!

So I'm back among the living tomorrow. Hopefully I won't have a relapse into ick girl. Posts in the works: an American cheese plate and lasagna with a new cheese. Coming soon.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Food for when you're sick

The problem with being sick, is I eventually do want food, but have no energy to do dishes or much of anything. Today I decided to make food and damn the dishes! I can let the dishes sit in the sink for a day. I need real food.

Unfortunately, today I wanted polenta. Really bad. Polenta. Must have it. Couldn't think of anything else. Didn't want leftover braised goat, didn't want a sandwich or eggs, or even cheese. Polenta. As I look in my fridge I see some lamb bratwurst from Mint Creek Farm that has to be cooked. They have a stand at the Green City Market here in Chicago and it's awesome. They carry lamb, and goat, and when the ducks feel like cooperating, duck eggs. Well, the sausage was thawed and needed to be used.

So I took the lamb out of it's casing and cooked it through. Then I added the wild mushroom pasta sauce and added four jars of chicken stock. I let it simmer for a few hours until I was ready to stand up again and the sauce had reduced by half.

Then I pulled up a stool and proceeded to make polenta. I realized that I'd used the rest of my chicken stock for the sauce, so I had to use plain water. I added some kosher salt, minced garlic and onion from The Spice House some hot sauce and red pepper flakes. To make the polenta a little bit more soupy I did a 1c polenta: 31/2 c liquid.

Open up the fridge again, and for the first time in a very long time, I have no parm. None. No rinds, no hard grating Italian cheese of any kind. What I did have was some Monterey Jack with mushrooms and onions from Brunkow Cheese that I'd picked up at the farmer's market with the plan being quesadillas. Quesadillas be damned! Into the pot it goes. Add the lamb sauce, stir it all together and you have what I am calling "Polenta Stew". I did add a bit more hot sauce at the end. I'm trying to break a fever after all. It is delicious. Only one problem. In my feverish zeal literally to have polenta I forgot to drain the lamb fat before adding the pasta sauce. That's okay though, a little lamb fat never hurt.

This here is the cheese. Really delicious. Brunkow does a bunch of cheeses, and has an artisan line which produces Avondale Truckle and Little Darling, two incredible American cheeses. I will talk about them another time. Right now, need to finish up, take more NyQuil, and go to bed

Finished stew.

I was just farting around, waiting for the drugs to kick in and I ran across this article from the NYT. Polenta, apparently is en vogue and I don't mean the girl group from the 90's.

Oh, I forgot. I wanted to extend a hearty congratulations to the winners of this years ACS Cheesemaking scholarships:

Scholarship Winners!

2009 Cheesemaker Scholarships have been announced! Please join us in congratulating these individuals.

María de Jesús López
Lacteos Acatic

Andrew Johnson
Shelburne Farms

Antonio Hernández
Queseria Los Hernández

Christopher Roelli
Roelli Cheese Company

Chris Chmiel
Integration Acres

Aubrey Thomason
Zingermans Creamery

Alessandra Trompeo
La Casa dei Fromaggi

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I am sick

I've had a rocking fever for a few days and can't even smell cheese much less taste it or remember flavor profiles. Instead, I offer you a few articles that you should read. They're not all really cheesy, but they're still interesting.

This has nothing to do with cheese. You should still read it.

This also has nothing to do with cheese, but who wouldn't like this job? I take it back. Wine has a lot to do with cheese. From the love and care put into the soil, to the end result.

Do you really need special knives for cheese? Here's one opinion. I agree with a lot being said in that article. The glaring exception for me was using a regular chef knife for cutting into Parmesan. If you're a professional, you know that those little knives are great for opening a wheel.

If you're a cheese enthusiast let me tell you that doing a perfect cut with a chef's knife dulls the flavor of the cheese. It's like fresh bread. If you cut it, you're only getting some of the flavor and aroma profiles. If you just tear into it like a wild beastie you get more of the yeasty goodness. When you break the Parmesan into irregular shapes, you'll see that it glistens and has that freshly cracked smell and taste. Your cheese will be brighter and have a bigger aroma and flavor. Don't believe me? Try it yourself. It works with almost any hard cheese (Zamarano, aged Gouda, aged Cheddar).

Ok, that's enough opening my eyes for now. Back to bed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

National Cheese Day Lunch

Happy day after National Cheese Day! I hope you all had a great day. Mine was hectic. The shop was ridiculously busy today. Most people didn't even know it was a cheese holiday. I guess they were just drawn to the shop like cows to the clover*.

So here are the three cheese selections of the day. The log on the left is Argyle from Zingerman's Creamery. The dome is Bridgewater, also from Zingerman's. The little cheese on the right is Robiola Rocchetta from northern Italy.

Robiola Rocchetta is one of my favorite cheeses. It comes from the Piedmont region of Italy and is a blend of cow, sheep and goat milks. Soft and creamy it is a lactic, slightly sharp, and acidic cheese. It has a little bit of that citric acid you get from a fresh goat cheese, but is really round in the mouth thanks to the sheep milk mmm...high butterfat content and just enough mellow pasture from the cow. This cheese is always welcome, on my cheese board, or as an addition to a baked pasta dish.

The Bridgewater is a cow milk cheese from Michigan. I haven't had this cheese in many many a moon and wanted to refresh my memory. Of the two peppered cheeses that Zingerman's makes I prefer the Detroit St. Brick. The Bridgewater is a big black pepper cheese. The Detroit St. Brick is a green peppered cheese. Bridgewater is cow milk, while Detroit St. Brick is goat. I think the best way to see which you like more is to taste them both. I tried them both again yesterday, and found that the Detroit is still my fave of the two.

The Argyle. This is a cow's milk and heavy cream cheese that has been rolled in toasted, salted oats. Some of my co-workers didn't really care for it. That's because they are stupid-heads.** I thought it was pretty tasty. Not as smooth as a cream cheese, or as bland. The Argyle was a new cheese for me. Interesting. If a decent bagel could be found in Chicago never going to happen I would toast one up, and spread the Argyle on it like cream cheese. Or maybe I would make a bowl of oatmeal, and add this and a little drizzle of syrup. It definitely wants to be made warm. The flavor profile is really straightforward. A clean round lactic flavor enhanced by sea salt and oats.

Really neat little cheese. One of my co-workers said it made her think of haggis. I had a different thought. My problem was that when you unwrap it it looks like a poo. I don't want to be mean. Maybe it's just that I've got the mentality of an 8 year old. I don't know, all I know is they need a new shape. Perhaps a disk would be better. I don't know, all I know is that this log here looks like a poo.

All in all I had a pretty good National Cheese Day. I filled my tummy, met a new cheesy friend, and have the pics to show for it. I hope you all had a good day as well. Don't forget, this is National Dairy Month, so you can celebrate cheese every day in June!

*Yes, I did kind of refer to customers as cows, but you know how much I love dairy animals, so this really shouldn't be perceived as an insult. Mooo

**I am fortunate to work with some incredibly talented, friendly, awesome educated people in my job who are good at what they do. They just didn't appreciate what I saw in the cheese. Stupid-heads.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

National Cheese Day!

Just a reminder to all of you out there that today is National Cheese Day! How does this differ from any other day of my life? Um...I...Well this time it's National so that's something.

Go out to your cheese shop and try something you've never had before. It's National Cheese Day!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Armenian String Cheese

That's right gang. Today it's all about Armenian string cheese. What is Armenian string cheese? I have no frickin idea. Gather round and I'll tell you a story.

Back in February my boss sent me a link to this site selling cheese art. The guy was manipulating wire and turning it into a sculpture of cheese. Cool right? So, I sent them an email asking which cheeses were still available. I picked five cheeses that I would love to have. I told them why each of those cheeses was near and dear to me. I gave them a link to my blog so they would know I wasn't just some flake. The email I get back says that of my five choices, only two are available and I'll get one of those. Yippee! I am filled with glee!

Weeks go by and nothing has been shipped. I send an email only to get one back gently reminding me that they did say it was going to be a while before they started shipping. Maybe I am a little bit of a flake.

Over a month goes by and I'm wondering where my sculpture is. Their website says that almost everyone's is out in the mail. I enter my email address and there's no record found of my order.

I send them another email. I let them know that I still haven't received my sculpture and now their website says I don't even have an order. An email comes back assuring me that my order will be on its way and that I shouldn't worry.

Yesterday I come home from work and Huzzah! I have a package! It has my cheese sculpture I just know it! I scoot up the stairs and rip it open like a kid on Christmas morning.


Sometimes your brain tricks you. When what you're looking at is impossible for you to rationalize UFO's, Britney Spears' "acting" it tricks you into thinking you're seeing something else. Something comfortable. Something that won't make your head explode.

What I saw when I opened the box was a sculpture of Emmenthal. I thought to myself, "Oh, that's so weird. He spelled it wrong." I blinked once, twice, three times a lady and realized the cold hard truth.

I do not want to offend anyone out there who loves Armenian String Cheese. I'm sure it's lovely. I got on the phone to my cheese people. They were flummoxed. I've never had it. I've never seen it. I don't know anyone who has eaten it or seen it. Some had heard of it, but as far as I'm concerened this is the Loch Ness Monster of cheese. The Bigfoot of the dairy world.

I am so bummed out. I wait three months for my sculpture. Three months of deciding where I'm going to hang it, if I should put it in a display box so nothing happens to it. I spend months thinking about how much fun it's going to be to blog about it and to bring it into work like I'm a third grader going to show and tell. And it's a cheese I've never even heard of and can't find. CURSES!

I have sent them an email asking them in the politest way I know how to fix it. In the interest of being an adult I will attempt to tell you about Armenian String Cheese. If anyone out there has any Armenian String Cheese knowledge, let me know.

So Wikipedia says,

In Slovakia, a traditional string cheese Korbáčiky is made[1] which is a salty sheep milk cheese, available smoked or unsmoked. Traditionally made by hand pulling steamed sheeps' cheese into strings and braiding them. Machine milk versions are also available.[2][3]

In Armenia, traditional string cheese is made with a white base. The type of milk used usually comes from an aged goat or sheep depending upon the production methods of the area of choice.[4] It includes black cumin[5] and a middle-eastern spice known as mahleb, and it comes in the form of a braided endless loop.[citation needed] The cheese forms strings because of the way it is pulled during processing. There is also Syrian cheese processed this way. Other cheeses are only cut and pressed, not pulled, and don't develop strings.

I was also able to find a recipe for this cheese online. It sounds interesting. It sounds a heck of a lot better than the K***t string cheese that smells and tastes like plastic. It's just not what I've waited three months for. I was supposed to have Monte Enebro or Clochette. CURSES!

I got an email back from the curator apologizing for the mix-up. They are going to send me one of the cheese sculptures I was promised.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodies exchange- Thank you all (almost)

Since coming back from London I have received some of the goodies in our little cultural exchange. I got two kinds of salt, a rosemary sea salt from Charmane's Gourmet Seasonings in Indiana, and a sea salt with herbs de Provence from parts unknown. In candy news, a Zzang bar from Zingerman's in Michigan and a package of La Dee Dahs from right here in Chicago. A little jar of maple syrup from Shelburne Farms in VT. Rounding out the list is a jar of what promises to be delicious pasta sauce from River Valley Kitchens in Wisconsin.

The La Dee Dah lady started out really small, just selling her cady in one store in Chicago. Then Chris' product took off like gang busters and she has her produce in quite a few places. Almost all of the places are still here in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. I'm just so happy to see a local person get national recognition and see their dream become a lucrative and tasty reality. There is no picture of the La Dee Dahs or the Zzang bar. They were devoured almost immediately and it wasn't until later I realized I should ahve taken a picture.

I have plans for the maple syrup as well, never you fear. Stuffed french toast is coming soon.

Pretty sure this is waiting for a lasagna.

I used this salt on some roasted red potatoes I had for dinner the other night. It paired quite nicely with the braised goat. No, I didn't take a picture. I put it in my tummy, and then in a tupper, and it just wasn't photo worthy. I'm hoping to do a braised lamb shoulder this weekend. I'll try to remember. The good/bad thing about this salt is that its quite tasty. I am a salt eater. Rumor in the family is that I'm part deer. I just love eating salt. A bunch of the salt went into the potatoes. A lot of it was eaten right out of the bag. I haven't even open the herb de Provence one yet. Having those two and my Hawaiian black lava salt might send me over the edge.

I am so not good at taking pictures of dinner. Cheese is fine. When it gets to room temperature its time to eat it. Dinner just goes in my tummy. I will try to learn patience for the next round of photos.

(Borrowing from the Colbert Report)
A tip of my hat to those of you who participated. I loved getting nummies in the mail and enjoyed devouring them. A wag of my finger to those of you who have not shared your neighborhood nummies. Shame on you. You are on my list. Somewhere between lo-fat cottage cheese and K***t singles.

For those of you who love stinky cheese like me, here's a great article